Thank You, Teacher: 100 Uplifting and Affirming Letters from Your Fellow Educators
By Brad Johnson and Hal Bowman
(Routledge/Eye On Education, 2022 – Learn more)
Reviewed by Michael McLaughlin
Are you familiar with Chicken Soup for the Soul? The bestselling collection of curated stories of lived experiences and poetry aimed to fortify and inspire readers. Over time, the book expanded into a series of anthologies for pet lovers, golfers, parents, teens, veterans, nurses, and travelers.
Following in that same vein, Thank You, Teacher is a collection of 100 letters written by educators for educators with the aim of uplifting, affirming, and celebrating the incredible work of our profession.
Teaching is a deeply rewarding yet challenging pursuit. We are gardeners who plant seeds for a fruit that will not ripen until some distant future. We are architects who design windows and doors for our students to see new perspectives and experience new opportunities.
We are adventurers who explore new worlds with our students and learn just as much, and sometimes more, about our fellow travelers – and ourselves – as the realms we journey to and through together. It is important to pause, reflect on, and validate the gifts that we bring to our craft.
Thank You, Teacher by Brad Johnson and Hal Bowman is a motivational book that will inspire teachers to take stock of the impact they have by finding a mindful minute to celebrate and receive a word of thanks from a fellow teacher.
A Week’s Worth of Inspiration
I’ve selected just five quotes from the book’s 100 letters to give readers of this review a sample of what’s in store.
“I can tell you though, not all my lessons are a hit. Some fail and some fail big! Those lessons that don’t work out just make you a stronger teacher in the end though. Never be afraid to try something for the fear that it might now work. As long as what you are doing is in the best interest of your students, that is all that matters.”
– Melinda Cave, 8th Grade Teacher/Coach, Rosenberg, Texas (p. 76)
“Crucial to thriving, not simply surviving, is relationships. Surround yourself with people who will war for you, collaborate with you, and make you belly laugh. Your students see and absorb more than you will ever know. Modeling relationships that grow you and refine you far outreaches your life. You know, the ripple effect.
We are all built for connection and you deserve to be connected with the people who will deposit into you daily, including a mentor. Regardless of your years on this journey, find a person who leads with integrity that you can emulate, holds you accountable to your WHY, and pushes you to YOUR fullest and greatest potential. AND LAUGHS WITH YOU!”
– Angi Thomas, Special Education Behavior Consultant, Abilene, Texas (p. 4)
“If you have lost your S.H.I.N.E. or are needing to bring that light within you to an illuminating level, then consider these five tips.
S.elf – Allow your strengths to serve you and serve others. Create a list and ask friends what are the greatest skills you have that make their life better.
H.eart – Explore your passions – those things that bring you energy, put a smile on your face, or make you lose track of time. Embed more those in your life.
I.nspire – Music, quotes, artwork, people, objects… the list goes on. Identify what brings you that momentum to keep going and keep them nearby for those times of need or to make sure you sprinkle them in daily or weekly.
N.avigate – Create a plan of action to put your strengths, passions and inspiration into your daily life. Highlighting this about you brings an awareness that then allows you to implement these moments and things so that you can see more of how you illuminate those around you. Including you!
Exceptional – Look in the mirror at the end of the day and be proud of who you are. Forget all the policies or standards that don’t serve our students. Make the choice to do what is best for students that is within your control and you will have made a difference in the lives of others. Man that feels good!”
– Lavonna Roth, Creator of Ignite your Shine (p. 235)
“The early mornings, late evenings, and weekends spent making life better for them may seemingly go unnoticed until the day things click. These moments are priceless, plentiful, continuous and life changing for students because you chose to invest in them tirelessly and unapologetically. Some days, months, and even years may pass before you hear a thank you, but please know that your work matters and is not done in vain.”
– Christine Delaney Bemis, Proud Public School Educator, Massachusetts (p. 162)
“So many children need your life, your time, your creativity, your hugs, your high-fives, your good morning greetings, your goodbye sendoffs, your I love you, your encouragement, your advice, your redirection, your wisdom, your smile, your creativity, and your heart. Not everyone can do that and that is what makes you so necessary.”
– Ms. Keevie Vincent, Elementary Teacher, Henderson, Kentucky (p. 54)
A Resource to Spark Celebration
Johnson and Bowman suggest utilizing the book as part of a daily routine – alone, in small teams, or as a whole school community – to cultivate a culture of being mindful of the impact that we have as educators and the obstacles and opportunities that we encounter in pursuing that calling.
The 2-3 page length of each letter lends itself to this daily practice. The supply of 100 letters from educators for educators will resonate with teachers and carry readers through over half the year.They might also be of service in mentor-mentee relationships with new and novice teachers.
Inspired by these affirming words of wisdom, educators might write and share their own letters – sparking conversations, celebrations, and thanksgiving with colleagues acutely attuned to our realities and witnesses of our work.
Michael McLaughlin is the Head of Middle School at Austin Preparatory School in Reading, Massachusetts. The 2019 recipient of the A+ Administrator Award from the New England League of Middle Schools (NELMS), McLaughlin also facilitates workshops for the PD Collab and has appeared on “The Teacher As” podcast. McLaughlin is on the NELMS Board of Directors and on the advisory board of Buckingham Education in the United Kingdom.